Wage Theft Update – CFMEU Could be liable for up to $500million in backpay

An important update on the hard work being done by Senator Malcolm Roberts to stop wage theft – from The Australian – by: ROBERT GOTTLIEBSEN


The likely size of Australia’s largest “wage theft” case has exploded from $100m to $500m as a result of a dramatic Fair Work Commission order that highlighted the anomaly.

The latest Fair Work rulings, making the liability simpler to calculate, have sent shockwaves through the union movement because of the deep involvement of the CFMEU in the wage deals which led to the massive underpayment.

Five wage hire companies, many of which have large Japanese equity, face the potential of also being forced to repay part of the money.

I suspect, while the CFMEU’s statements on the AFL Hobart stadium triggered some unions to distance themselves from the union, the CFMEU’s involvement in the looming coal miner “wage theft” scandal and its potential repayment liability bill are additional reasons for the distancing.

And because the CFMEU is a key funder of the ALP, there are political funding issues too.

Like other coal miners in NSW and Queensland, casual miners at the Callide coal mine at Biloela in central Queensland have not been receiving their 25 per cent casual entitlement.

Fair Work, which previously approved the union approved wage deals that excluded the miners’ 25 per cent casual entitlement, has reversed its position by using a provision in the Fair Work act to enable casual workers to receive their 25 per cent entitlement from November 1.

This simple casual pay ruling triggered miner pay rises of around $30,000 for the 2024-25 financial year. In addition, the “same work same pay” legislation added at least another $10,000 and there was an award rise of a similar amount.

The total miner 2024-25 take home pay therefore rises a staggering $50,000 — more than 40 per cent.

‘It’s a remarkable story and illustrates what can happen when unions and employers get too close together and the regulator does not intervene.’

The non-ACTU aligned Brisbane-based Independent Workers Union, a division of the so-called Red Union group with over 20,000 members mainly in the nursing and teaching sectors, has taken up the miners’ wage theft case and is now undertaking detailed research going back decades to document the miners’ back pay claim.

Wage deals without the casual entitlement were approved and sometimes negotiated by the CFMEU. They were all approved by Fair Work.

The mining section of the CFMEU has split off and is now called the Mining and Energy Union, and it brought the claim to have miners casual rate entitlement paid in 2024-25 but did not request back pay.

After the Fair Work decision, the MEU highlighted the rise achieved via same work, same pay legislation, but not the much larger increase gained as a result of the casual work entitlement.

The Callide mine was purchased in 2016 from Anglo American by a group of Brisbane business people. The higher pay will test the economics of the mine. But, the Callide mine is only a small part of the large number of NSW and Queensland coal mines where enterprise bargaining deals with no casual pay entitlement were signed over the past two decades.

It’s a remarkable story and illustrates what can happen when unions and employers get too close together and the regulator does not intervene.

The underpayment might never have been uncovered, but for the work of one miner, the federal parliament, Malcolm Roberts, and the Independent Workers Union.

The black coal award makes it illegal for coal mining companies to hire casuals; their workers must be employees. But, most coal companies contracted out their mining to five labour hire companies who undertook the work using casuals but did not pay those casuals the 25 percent casual entitlement.

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  • One Nation
    published this page in News 2024-07-10 18:31:48 +1000